At My Door

I think sometimes about how everything I’ve ever lost has returned to me in one way or another and if it was never recovered then it simply wasn’t meant for me.

I lost my gold necklace with my great grandmother’s Hebrew name last night. I scoured my bedroom, went back to the park, searched by the tree I touched, but still there was nothing to be recovered.

I was certain I would find my necklace beside that white stained tree and it would be gleaming golden — victorious, I would be.

But in that moment I realized something. I have a tendency to linger, to hold onto items and memories, which bring me comfort even when they may no longer be necessary for me on my journey.

I’ve come to adopt a life motto, which is extremely simple and it is just this: what is meant for me will never leave me. It will always return to me.

I’ve failed to mention the amount of times I’ve misplaced this necklace, only for it to return to me in the most random place after a realization and a lesson had been learned in divine timing.

So, I think just this time I’ll let it go.

I think just this time I’ll leave this golden memory with the comfort that everything — every person, place, and experience, which is meant for me will never leave me and will return to my door when I’m ready to receive them.

Magic in The Secret Garden

Front Cover of The Secret Garden, 1911 US Edition

I’ve been thinking about a statement Mary Lennox declares in The Secret Garden. She says to Colin that if he “make[s] them open the door and take [him] in like that it will never be a secret garden again” (Burnett 130).

In the very beginning of The Secret Garden, Mary keeps the abandoned garden she has recovered a secret primarily because she wants to revive it and she witnesses and recalls herself in this piece of earth.

By tending to the garden, she inadvertently tends to herself and becomes less sullen, gloomy, and alone. Mary finds solace in the bit of earth she cares for as she finds solace and a kind of love in herself.

But, I keep returning to this point of the magic in a secret garden or any secret really. I believe Mary didn’t want to share the secret of the garden because she was afraid she would lose herself in being tender and revealing an undisclosed aspect of herself to another — a familiar, a stranger: her first cousin.

When I think of my own life, I often think of the secret smiles I’ve kept to myself — those memories I’ve shared with only another — a memory no one else will be able to recover.

I think that’s what Mary spoke about at the end of the day.

There’s magic in a secret garden. There’s magic in the parts of ourselves we thought were abandoned but then tended to and watched bloom.

And there’s magic in this ancestry and me and you.

Nostalgia’s Rosy Eyes

Romantic Soul by Ron Hicks

Lately, I’ve been contemplating the role nostalgia plays in our lives as we journey forward through all our challenges and respective triumphs.

I honestly believe nostalgia comes from a desire for safety and comfort. Every time I’ve felt nostalgic in the past, I’ve noticed how the feelings I experience aren’t necessarily a desire to return to the exact time I’m reflecting back on. Rather, these scattered feelings bring me to a place of deep and earnest longing for a time when everything felt certain, warm, and comforting.

Now, in light of the pandemic and the fight/flight responses our brains all are naturally working through, it only makes sense to indulge in nostalgia for a time before the pandemic and before masks and this madness.

Every day, it appears that another area of conflict appears on our door side. Another day equals another conflict —another concern, another worry, which appears insurmountable to even us.

Given this, I’ve been reflecting on why we are nostalgic over the course of our lives. What purpose does nostalgia serve? And why do we linger in past memories through tinted rose-colored glasses?

In the end, I consider nostalgia to be laced in a moment, which never truly existed — a moment when everything appeared to be certain, brilliant, and fulfilling.

And so we return to our childhoods. We return to the playgrounds of our youth. We return to the first kisses, which caught us head over heels. And lastly, we return to the moment before everything unfolded before us.

Because even now we desire to trace the elusive “what-if’s.”

What if I had stayed in his/her/or their arms?

What if I lingered another day in a moment of sustained comfort?

I highly doubt nostalgia will ever leave us, but we might reconsider how we utilize this emotion as we face every challenge in our lives.

Goodbye (Hello) Leaves More Leaves

Goodbye (Hello) — my first full-length poetry collection is now officially out in hardcover as well.

For those readers who would love to add more leaves to their collection or enjoy the crisp feeling of a hard paperback, in their collection, consider the feeling of adding this lofty leaf to your collection.

I, personally, love the feeling of a hardcover book in my collection. There’s a feeling of antiquity about it as I keep a copy of my favorite books in hardcover. Plus, let’s be real here, when I really desire a back (back in the old days when I was a child; imagine that!?) I used to purchase books I truly desired in hardcover first because consumerism forced me to.

In this manner, I collected many many books in hardcover before the soft cover release a year later.

Luckily enough, this isn’t a requirement for you. Perhaps, it’s a matter of some consumerism (as most matters are these days), but it is also a choice in pleasure.

So, enjoy this new leaf I’ve gathered for you.

Goodbye (Hello)

Fallen Astrophyllite: Recovered Purpose

Yesterday, the stone for one of my favorite rings inset with Astrophyllite fell out. I knew right then and there exactly what this meant for me within my life.

When I purchased this ring years ago, I craved for my purpose — to realize it within this life of my own. In that time, I imagined my purpose to be something greater than me. How wrong was I to conceive this.

All along, years later, I realize now that my purpose has always been within me — an effervescent spark in the dark guiding and reminding me of my home.

It all begins with me and then ripples out to you, my friend.

So, despite the sentimentality I hold with this ring, it’s time to let it go and find another ring, which serves me in my purpose now that I’ve remembered home: a place filled with words and words and words, which I intend to write for the rest of my life.

Oceanic Memories in Art

I’ve been thinking lately about my legacy in these poems and words I press to the page.

One of my favorite musicians, Zella Day, once spoke to the oceanic nature of her songs and how in time she will collect a catalogue of pressed moments, which she can return to any time.

Now, as I near the next poem of my life, I think fondly back on the catalogue I’ve created thus far within my poetry. It’s rather beautiful how I can return to any poem I’ve written, or any work for that matter, and find something new every time.

In the end, this is what I love about art in all its multifaceted forms. I love how artists show up for their art every day. I love how people can find some new interpretation in the words, which I press to the page (and the words you may press to the page).

I love how I can go to an art gallery and connect so viscerally with a portrait painted hundreds of years ago. And I love how I can meet you in this hour, without ever touching you in the physical realm.

That’s why I show up every day in my life. That’s why I show up in my art.

I do it because that’s what it means to live well and to preserve a moment in time for eternity.

Unexpected Leaves at TSA

This morning, as I made my way to the airport, I was in a rush, surrounded by metallic drab grays and blues with insincere faces and the imminent will of the clock speeding me up.

I reached for my great grandmother’s gold necklace and fixed it onto my neck, combatting a headache and a sleepy daze, which I hadn’t been able to shake since last night.

I’m going home, I kept thinking.

As I rifled through my pockets at the TSA station, I discovered this memento I stowed away days ago from Yosemite Park. Instantly, it brought a smile to my face and made me remember, just like that, the divinity of this moment.

I’ll close off this note by wishing you well on your journey. Make sure you pack spare leaves and mementos as you traverse the darkest corners and emerge brilliant and golden with everything to show for it.

-Ilyssa

Remembering Yosemite Park

For the last week, I’ve been isolated from all signs of physical connection as witnessed through my cell phone and its reception.

After eight weeks of staring at a phone screen, I was stripped of it all as I traversed Yosemite Park. At first, it was difficult to disconnect from civilization in this regard with no social media, no internet, and no digital map to guide me forward through the unexplored terrain.

Luckily enough, I fared well, requiring only the silence, my feet, my steady breath, and loads of water to make my hike through nature. At the beginning, I found I had no words as I digested the last eight weeks, which passed me in a blur.

And yet, in the silence, I found words within me speaking ever so softly. It had been months since I bled my first poetry collection onto the page. Despite this, I kept wondering what was next for me — what to write, what to create. In my mind, I bought into all these capitalistic, consumptive tendencies even though it’s something I’ve always fought to distance myself from.

“What will I publish next?” This question always lingered on my lips, and as often as I asked it, I returned with nothing to show for the question because I did not have the answer.

And I still don’t.

I don’t know what’s next for me. I think I’m meant to sit on the catalog of poetry I’ve gathered here and continue to write and write until I emerge clearer for the fresh summer air and the silence all around me.

I’ll end this letter with a thank you for the moments of respite I’ve gathered from the Arizona heat.

Thank you, Yosemite.

Life as a Meditation

There is no rush. Life is a meditation.

This afternoon, after waving goodbye to my third-grade class, I wrote these lines on my lesson plan.

I’ve been thinking about what it means to live life truly and how, even I, have been contemplating my next move: What will I publish next? Where will my next gem come from? I’ve been in such a rush that I haven’t stopped to smell the roses.

Today, I realized how being so focused on the next moment has stopped me from sitting with the magnitude of what I’ve done in the last three months alone. I’ve published my first chapbook and my first full-length poetry collection. Why, then, can’t I sit with this accomplishment and celebrate all that I have accomplished in such a short amount of time?

What pushes me to push forward — to contemplate, to strike away at a new meditation before it is the right time to do so?

I believe there’s a number of reasons (societal and otherwise for this), but I’ll refrain from that long interlude and remain present, here and now with you.

When I graduated from college and completed my undergraduate thesis, a dear friend spoke to me about how we couldn’t just sit with our achievements and marvel in them all; we had to constantly be onto “the next big thing” as we moved forward in our educations. Suffice it to say, I fell guilty to this same phenomenon because I couldn’t just sit with my words in the silence.

I think all the world’s problems would be solved if we just sat with our silence.

So, I think I shall sit in silence for a little while until the muse strikes me once again.

Charting Passings of 100 Years

Lasted through the weight of the pandemic, succumbed to a flash flood in 2021.

A week ago, the saguaro cactus near where I live fell down. In my neighborhood park, this cactus occupied a strange, archaic in-between when I first discovered it.

I attached a myriad of meanings to this relic. This cactus became a marker of my journey — an artifact still standing in its place, despite the passing of one-hundred years. I found beauty in this relic. I found solace in its present orientation in the world, even as it leaned forward, rather like the picture of the Tower of Pisa. In its rather mechanical nature, it stood exposed, skin peeled back to reveal nature’s bones. I admired its pursuit to remain through August, September, October and until the end of July of 2021 when it was displaced in a flash flood.

I couldn’t help wonder why the elemental force of the flash floods brought an end to this cacti’s journey of one-hundred years (potentially more), but I think that’s beside the point.

I’ve realized the power of foundations within nature and as evident within my own life. Sooner or later, this artifact of nature was meant to fall, to decompose — all in the name of eventually being reborn.

So, today, as I walked past this ancient composition of nature, I couldn’t help but smile, all in the name of remembering what Walt Whitman once said, “Has anyone supposed it lucky to be born? / I hasten to inform him or her it is just as lucky to die, and I know it” (Leaves of Grass, Norton Critical Edition, p. 666).

I plant myself for a new arrival as I honor the one-hundred years, which came before me. I give gratitude to the lives of my ancestors and for the foundations, which once served them. Lastly, I pray the cactus I spied months and months ago is given a proper burial where she belongs, finally at home to be reborn once again.